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Maybe simplification is the key to digitization?

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Christopher Neely's picture
Independent, Local News Organization

Journalist for nearly a decade with keen interest in local energy policies for cities and national efforts to facilitate a renewable revolution. 

  • Member since 2017
  • 762 items added with 379,400 views
  • Jan 31, 2023

The modern age has always demanded us to change. Yet, many might agree the changes asked of us today, especially when it comes to digitization, machine learning and data, are more disruptive because they force us into not just a fresh way of operating but an altogether new paradigm. 

Electric utilities face a two-fold paradigm shift between the sea change toward renewable energy and the requirement of digitization (though both promise improvements for the future). Navigating one is burden enough but balancing both seems so complicated as to almost be impossible. Yet, the ability to change here means life or death, and that has forced utilities to adapt.

Yet, how do we grade this adaptation? Is simply saying we are moving toward digitization enough? Sure, hiring third party firms to collect data, signing contracts with software firms to organize the data, and throwing some money toward machine learning looks good on paper, and might convince enough people that a utility is with The Times. But are we really getting anywhere, especially as more digitally-adept companies like Tesla, or startups that crop up every quarter, promise to make dinosaurs extinct?

Probably not, according to Alex Read, senior manager of data platforms with electric utility EDF UK. Read was recently featured in an article on in which he explained that it wasn't until EDF UK began to simplify its digitization efforts that he felt progress in digitization.

“We had a bunch of vendors, a bunch of data solutions, both on premise and in the cloud. We had no central source of truth and no consolidated view of all of our data that we wanted to share across the business," Read told VentureBeat. "We had a vast technology estate that was borderline unmanageable. We now have a few technology components that just make our lives 10 times easier.”

EDF UK has consolidated its digitization vendors to a handful of companies, namely Snowflake, AWS and Python, that allowed disparate data from grandfathered-in systems to consolidate into one place in the cloud. Read said having all the data in one place was a "game changer."

Now, the utility is squeezing the data for all its worth, and discovering new solutions because of it. The data it was already collecting can now tell them which customers are most likely to buy an electric car, which customers might face financial difficulties, and ensures that the utility is buying electricity at the best possible price. Then there is the customer-facing solutions as well, such as informing customers how they can cut energy usage.

Digitization and the demands of the modern age are complicated. Read's team seems to have taken the wise view that it's best to not make it more complicated than it has to be. Read the full article on Read and EDF UK's transition here.


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